Early Saturday morning, Dallas police officers were faced with a hail of gunfire outside their headquarters in a premeditated attack complete with pipe bombs and an armored getaway car, said authorities.
While bullets battered a number of squad cars and shattered the police station's glass doors, no officers were injured, said Dallas Police Chief David O. Brown. “We barely survived the intent of this suspect... It's been a blessing."
After spraying a steady stream of bullets from multiple angles at the lobby and second floor of the headquarters, the attacker jumped in his van, ramming it into a squad car and fleeing to a suburban parking lot about 13 miles southeast. Officers, who had returned gunfire, weren't far behind. Outside a Jack in the Box in the city of Hutchins, Texas, they cornered the car, launching a standoff that would draw out for several hours into Saturday morning.
Around 5 a.m., roughly four and a half hours after the attack began on South Lamar Street, a SWAT sniper shot the attacker through the windshield. Police later confirmed his death as they used a bomb squad robot to enter his van, reported the Washington Post. They were especially wary because earlier that morning, officials had uncovered four bags planted outside the station that contained two pipe bombs, and the shooter had warned police that “he had C-4 (military grade explosives) on the van,” said Chief Brown. “That's our biggest concern. We don't want to call his bluff."
On Saturday afternoon, the van caught fire and ammunition rounds are going off inside the vehicle, reported the Associated Press. Dallas police say in a Twitter post that the fire erupted when they used robots to clear the van of weapons such as pipe bombs.
Brown later announced that that there had been five explosive packages left at headquarters, designed to detonate “on touch.” One pipe bomb exploded when a robot picked it up.
It was initially unclear whether there had been one or multiple shooters outside the station, said police, who described witness accounts of spotting as many as four gunmen. They now believe the suspect, a man who identified himself as James Boulware, acted alone.
Police said they could not immediately confirm his identity, but records show that Boulware was previously charged with multiple assault charges two years ago, reported Dallas TV station WFAA. His criminal records indicate he has committed violent acts against family members, including bodily assault and “impeding a family member’s breath or circulation.” Reports indicate he also had “an extensive history” with Child Protective Services.
During negotiations in the standoff, the suspect told officials that he blamed the police for losing custody of his child, becoming “increasingly angry and threatening” and lapsing into rants, according to WFAA. After a while, he hung up the phone and ended the negotiations.
Dallas police say they had no advance warning of Saturday's attack. But this is not, however, the first time law enforcement officials in Texas have been attacked. In January, a teenager in the city of Longview was shot after threatening police officers with a knife, and in September, a man was killed in San Patricio County after driving his car into a sheriff’s office and shooting at the building.
The Dallas attack comes at a time when law enforcement officials often operate in a public climate of suspicion and anger. There have been several "ambush attacks" on police in the US. In March, after two police officers were shot in Ferguson, Mo., The Christian Science Monitor wrote:
The shootings underscore the massive stakes in America’s recent look at the role of police in an increasingly nonviolent country. Indeed, violence involving police – whether cops being killed or cops shooting civilians – is one of the few crime statistics climbing in the US as armed robbery, rapes, murder, and assaults continue a steady two-decade decline.
The statistics also underscore a toxic environment, expressed by angry street protests, that police fear has the potential to motivate the actions of an individual avenger. Gallup found last year that one in four blacks have little to no confidence in police while three out of every 25 white Americans felt the same way.